…Just as Bergson never gives us a finite definition of duration, Deleuze does not offer a singular definition of the time-image, or give a clear indication of what he means by a “direct image of time.” We can, however, offer the following description based on Deleuze’s many suggestive morsels, partial insights, and descriptive metaphors.
The crystal-image, which forms the cornerstone of Deleuze’s time-image, is a shot that fuses the pastness of the recorded event with the presentness of its viewing.
The crystal-image is the indivisible unity of the virtual image and the actual image.
The virtual image is subjective, in the past, and recollected.
The virtual image as “pure recollection” exists outside of consciousness, in time.
It is always somewhere in the temporal past, but still alive and ready to be “recalled” by an actual image.
The actual image is objective, in the present, and perceived.
The crystal-image always lives at the limit of an indiscernible actual and virtual image.
With the crystal-image, Deleuze assigns a form of temporality that accounts for the “present/pastness” of the film image.
The crystal-image shapes time as a constant two-way mirror that splits the present into two heterogeneous directions, “one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past. Time consists of this split, and it is … time, that we see in the crystal” ( Cinema 2 , 81).
David N. Rodowick sums up the time-image as one that fluctuates between actual and virtual, that records or deals with memory, confuses mental and physical time, actual and virtual, and is sometimes marked by incommensurable spatial and temporal links between shots ( Gilles Deleuze’s Time Machine, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997, 79-118).